South Korea apologizes as Moderna halves COVID-19 vaccine shipments in August
SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Reuters) – The South Korean Minister of Health apologized on Monday for the COVID-19 vaccine shortages, saying the US drug maker Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) would ship less of the half of its scheduled shipment this month due to production issues.
Suffering from a fourth wave of infections, South Korea has seen a record number of new cases in recent weeks, as its vaccination campaign has been hampered by vaccine shortages and shipping delays.
Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said Moderna had informed South Korea that it would only be able to deliver less than half of the 8.5 million doses it was due to ship in August.
“I apologize once again for raising concerns among the population over Moderna’s vaccine supply problems,” Kwon said in a briefing.
The U.S. drug maker had already missed its late July shipment, saying some manufacturing partners were facing delays due to lab testing operations. Read more
Kwon said the government had complained to Moderna and that a high-level delegation would be visiting the company to discuss how best to remedy the situation.
He said Moderna apologized and pledged to work to honor the promised expeditions.
Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
South Korea has a contract to buy 40 million doses from Moderna, and about 2.4 million have arrived so far, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The delays came as South Korea prepares to open vaccine reservations for all adults over 18 for the first time Monday evening, with vaccinations using Moderna or Pfizer / BioNTech products (PFE.N ), (22UAy.DE) to start on August 26. read more
Reservations will go as planned, but it will take six weeks to get a second injection after the first dose, instead of four weeks, KDCA chief Jeong Eun-kyeong said.
South Korea has been praised for handling past major outbreaks with extensive tracing and testing, but slow adoption of vaccination has overlapped with an increase in more communicable variants.
Some 45% of the 52 million residents received at least one dose of the vaccine, while only 15% were fully immunized by midnight Sunday, according to KDCA data.
South Korea aims to vaccinate more than 70% of the population by September.
President Moon Jae-in said in a meeting with senior officials that despite vaccine shortages, the goal will be achieved by maximizing the efficiency of available supplies.
The KDCA reported 1,492 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 212,448, with 2,125 deaths.
Report by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Lincoln Feast & Simon Cameron-Moore
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